If it weren’t for our job that keeps us stuck at the office, Chiara and I would always be traveling, whether abroad or in our country. We plan a trip whenever we have the chance, and we do very well as we’ve become experts in terms of travel-savings. For this reason, some people ask us how to travel cheap like we do. Well, the answer is always the same: we succeed by adopting some tricks that we learned during the years of traveling.
Do you want to find out how to travel cheap too? In this guide, I will reveal our methods to spend as little money as possible on travels and what the pros and cons are of each one. I’ll give you tips about traveling low cost, from the most simple solutions to the wildest ones for the adventurous. Then, I’ll tell you how to save on transportation, food, tours, and extras during the trip.
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How to travel cheap by saving on accommodations
You don’t have to make such drastic changes to travel cheaper than you usually do. In this paragraph, I will give you some tips on how to find a budget accommodation. Then I’ll tell you affordable ways to move around during your stay without sacrificing too much comfort.
Use sharing economy services: Airbnb
Have you ever heard of Airbnb? It is a sharing economy service, and I will tell you what is the cheapest way to travel using it.
In Airbnb you will find apartments (or just rooms) made available by other people like you. You will see accommodations at a much lower price than that of hotels. In addition to saving on the reservation itself, the advantage of choosing the apartment is the kitchen. The use of the kitchen will allow you to avoid breakfast at the bar and lunch/dinner at the restaurant.
Within the website, you can fill in your preferences, and this is why I consider Airbnb a “comfy” solution. We mostly choose apartments with wifi, and we enter the price range based on what we set out to spend.
- cheap accommodation
- possibility of using the kitchen (less expensive meals)
- flexible range of options
- it’s not a hotel, so you will have to provide your own for breakfast and cleaning
- if you don’t pay for the entire apartment, the other rooms of the house may be shared with the owners or other guests
How to travel cheap by saving on transportation
Use carpooling: BlaBlaCar
There’s another interesting sharing service by which you can travel cheaply, also good for when you have to cover long distances. It’s called BlaBlaCar, and it’s an affordable travel service we often use too. With BlaBlaCar, if someone takes car rides and has free seats, they can make those available in exchange for money that contributes to fuel and highway expenses.
This is a ridesharing service I recommend to people as it allows you to choose anything from the departure time to the type of driver you prefer. If you are a private person, for example, you can pick a no-Blabla driver. On the contrary, if you like to talk during the car ride, you can choose a sociable one. Awesome, right?
Our advice is not to look for a ride too early because people tend to upload their trips just a few days before departure. Use the alert so you will be notified when someone does so.
Are you wondering how to plan an affordable vacation by using your own car? You can do carpooling as a driver too. You just have to upload your data on the website, wait for someone to ask you for a ride, and share the expenses with them.
NB. BlaBlaCar serves 20+ countries in the world (most countries are in Europe, but also Mexico, India, Brazil are included). Unfortunately, this ridesharing service is not available in the USA nor in Asia, but there may be equivalents for each country. Go and check it out!
- competitive price
- the convenience of traveling by car
- possibility to travel cheap with your own car
- flexibility in choosing times and drivers
- possibility of sharing the ride with other passengers
- sometimes passengers may be too many
- you will not always find drivers for your route (the more you do research well in advance, the less chance you will have to find a car ride)
- it might happen that you could get uncomfortable with the way the driver drives
Use a rail pass
If you are asking yourself how to travel for cheap, did you consider the idea of traveling by train?
You could get a rail pass if you are thinking of making several stops along the way. It’s a kind of package deal of train rides: the price is much lower than that for single rides.
Interrail, for example, is one of the most popular and reliable companies for traveling around Europe. Check it out and get your cheap travel packages!
- Flexibility in choosing times (take the train whenever you want)
- saving on single routes
- practical for long commutes
- give up the convenience of the car with which you can get closer to the point you want to visit
Ride the bus
What is the cheapest way to travel? Sometimes the best way is to choose slow travel. It will take a long time to reach your destination, probably more than by any other means of transportation. Still, your wallet will very much like it.
Just like trains, there is a pass for the buses too, and the prices are even lower. Flixbus, for example, is one of the best low-cost companies in Europe for bus trips. There’s a program called Interflix, and it allows you to choose 5 European destinations to reach by Flixbus. The pass costs 99 euros (just a little over 100 dollars) and is valid for 3 months. It’s perfect for your affordable vacations!
- very low prices
- the flexibility in scheduling travels
- bus travels are extremely slow and can be stressful
How to travel for free (or almost)?
Are you an intrepid one and want to put yourself out there in the best way? I’m gonna explain to you how to travel cheaply, or rather, how to travel almost for free!
Let’s dispel this myth: traveling isn’t just for rich people, and nowadays, there are so many ways to travel on a budget or even for free.
Find free accommodation
The first method that I propose to you is seeking hospitality through Couchsurfing. What is it all about? It is a service born in 2004, and the aim is to connect people willing to provide hospitality for free. In addition to allowing people to travel for free, it serves to create new bonds of friendship between people of different cultures.
Once you join the community, you can look for people who make their sofa or their entire home available. Oh, and this is a very reliable service because you can clearly read the reviews from both guests and hosts.
Chiara learned how to travel for cheap by Couchsurfing during her Erasmus. She traveled across Sweden almost for free. She also made friends and discovered the secrets of the destinations thanks to the hosts’ advice!
However, she recommends paying close attention (especially to women who travel alone). She also advises choosing peaceful neighborhoods and hosts with many positive reviews to avoid unpleasant surprises.
- stay for free
- make friends with the locals
- receive local advice about the place
- no private space (most likely)
- you have to pay attention to the reviews of the hosts (especially if you are a woman and you travel alone)
- it might happen that you could get uncomfortable with your host
One of the best free travel opportunities is that of house sitting. In this case, you’ll have to work hard to earn yourself a place to sleep because the service involves an “exchange of favors.” Hosts provide a place to sleep as long as guests take care of the house pets and/or water the plants during their absence. Everyone gets an advance without incurring any expenses. Cool, right?
If you have a natural propensity for animals or you have a green thumb, and you think you can get away with it, then take the challenge and become a house sitter! Take a look at TrustedHousesitters or Housesitter.
- stay for free
- private spaces
- you have to carry out your tasks
Ask local friends to host you
Do you know anyone who lives in the place you are going to? Take advantage of this opportunity! Let them know in advance of your arrival and ask them to host you. It may seem obvious to you, but it’s always good to remember it! You will be able to go on cheap vacations, and you’ll have the opportunity to spend some time with an old friend at the same time.
Besides, the fact that you know a local is an advantage in terms of “exploration.” Ask them how to get around, how to save money, and which are the best spots in the city.
- stay for free
- strengthen friendships with people you don’t see very often
- already know your host
- take advantage of the local advice
- no private spaces
- you have to adjust to your host’s typical day
Use a dormitory
Dormitories basically are large buildings that contain many beds. The larger the dormitory, the less you will pay for your inexpensive vacations. Beds are either placed in private rooms or in open and shared spaces.
Although you will have to share a bedroom with other people, you will also have the opportunity to save a lot of money. This is not a completely free solution, but it’s very economical, and it answers the question of “how can I travel the world with little money.” You can search for dormitories at Booking by ticking the appropriate box.
NB. Always pay attention to where you leave your bags, of course! Since there are many people with you, keep your valuables, money, and documents safe.
- very low prices
- dormitories can be found in very central locations
- no private spaces
- private rooms cost more
- having to pay more attention to valuable goods
- difficulty in sleeping if you are a light sleeper
Are you a more wild person? Do you want to test yourself? You can sleep in a tent and travel on a budget!
During our trip to Portugal, we slept for 14 consecutive nights in more than 10 different campsites. And now, I can say with certainty that sleeping in a tent is not for everyone but it gives indescribable emotions for those who appreciate it. It allowed us to travel for two weeks, spending only a few dollars per night.
It was not a comfy solution at all! We slept on a small mat and we also had to give up a private bathroom, but we truly learned how to plan affordable vacations by enjoying nature and discomfort.
- minimum prices
- no need to book in advance
- live in touch with nature
- it requires a spirit of adaptation
- the tent must be assembled before silence time
How to find free rides
How to travel for cheap by saving on transportation? Hitchhiking can be the right solution. It is not legal everywhere in the world, so before pulling your thumb out, be sure to do it without incurring any punitive measures. In Italy, for example, hitchhiking is not possible but in many northern European countries and in America, you can do this freely.
Hitchhiking is a wild choice. You won’t know your driver, their direction, and you don’t have reviews like you would with BlaBlaCar, but in many places, it’s a rather safe method. It will allow you to move basically for free and have an affordable trip.
Be careful. Maximum attention especially for solo female travelers!
- the perk of traveling by car
- totally free
- you will have to wait until someone stops
- you won’t know the driver, and you will have to adapt to his schedule
- not legal everywhere
How to travel cheap: tips and tricks
In the following paragraphs, I will give you more specific advice on how to save on reservations and optimize your budget. I’ll tell you how to find cheap flights to anywhere, how to save on food, tours and more.
How to find low cost flights
When you think of a trip, what do you picture? The first thing that comes to my mind is the image of an airplane in the sky.
Yes. Flying is the fastest, safest and most comfortable way to reach our favorite destinations, especially if it is long distances. Let’s see how to find cheap flights.
The importance of being flexible
If you are flexible, booking a trip will be a breeze for you! Flexibility with the dates is essential if you want to travel cheap and save money. If you have no problem booking a trip at any moment, you will have a good chance of traveling on a budget.
In principle, avoid going during the holidays. Otherwise, you will blow the whole budget on flights, and you won’t have enough money for the remaining reservations. Low season is the ideal time to fly. Want to take a nice tour of Italy? Avoid flying in August, which is the hottest and most popular season for tourists. Instead, book between May and June, a fairly warm and less expensive period. You will save money and avoid the tourist crowds.
How to travel cheap: tricks on booking flights
Some research shows that the cheapest days to book flights are from Tuesday to Thursday when the prices drop to off-season rates. Even those who can only travel on the weekend or in peak season can give it a try!
When I say that you have to be flexible with dates, I’m also talking about the moment you make the reservations. The two best times to book are either well in advance or at the last minute. They also say that you will find the best price if you book exactly 47 days in advance and it has worked for me on a few occasions.
Wanna know more about how to travel for cheap? I give you some extra advice! Use the incognito mode to avoid price increases due to the recurrence of the search.
Also, set up a flight alert from cheap flight comparers. Sometimes airlines make airfare errors and sell their tickets at bargain prices. With the flight alert, you can track price changes and may be able to get one of those super-cheap plane tickets!
Choose budget travel destinations
How to travel cheap? The choice of the destination plays an important role too. It’s a good idea to find an affordable destination. And I assure you, there are plenty.
Take advantage of the favorable monetary exchange rate and choose a cheap holiday destination like India or Vietnam. Non-tourist or low advertised destinations have a lot to offer! You can experience a vacation on a dream beach at a bargain price.
To make your research easier, use flight aggregators like Google Flight, eDreams or Skyscanner. You’ll have infinite solutions to choose from.
How to use aggregators? It’s easy: enter the dates of your trip, then the departure and the arrival points. The aggregator will do the rest by searching flight deals from different companies and sorting the results from the cheapest to the most expensive.
If you are looking for intercontinental flights, consider the idea of including layovers to save money. You can combine the cheapest flights through the aggregators too.
Avoid additional services
For your budget holidays, choose low-cost airlines rather than other companies that offer more services but at a higher price. Consider that budget airlines may charge you for transporting your luggage, so travel as light as possible, especially if your trip will be short.
Also, avoid every kind of add-on such as priority boarding or the ability to choose your seat.
NB. Pay attention to the dimension and the weight of your luggage because there is usually an extra charge for the oversized ones. You can check the size requirements on the company’s website, and you can buy a cheap luggage scale on Amazon. Don’t forget this – I assure you that I’ve seen so many people get desperate at the airport over this. It makes sense since the extra fee is really expensive!
How to save on food
How to travel for cheap? Once you have reached your destination, you gotta take all the other expenses into consideration. What about the food? If you don’t pay attention to where you eat, you will spend a lot of money without even realizing it. I’ll give you some tips to save on food.
Avoid hotel breakfast when not included
Breakfast is not always included when you book a room at a hotel. So if you want to have breakfast there, you’ll have to pay more, but I don’t recommend you using this service. Breakfast prices are generally high and fixed, regardless of what you eat. It’s not worth spending so much when you can save money with a simple alternative.
Since you will have to go out and explore, set the alarm for 15 minutes earlier and go out for a walk where you can find a bar and spend the right price for your breakfast.
Travel on a budget by cooking at home
If you stay in an apartment, you’ll have the advantage of having a kitchen available. Take the opportunity to go to a local grocery store or a typical market and cook your own food.
Are you going to spend your whole day away from the apartment? Save money by preparing sandwiches at home. They are practical, cheap and you can eat them anywhere. The best solution for your cheap trips.
Choose local spots and avoid touristy restaurants
Restaurants can be very expensive, especially when it comes to tourist areas. Moreover, the tourist restaurants in the city centers may not be the best in quality. How to travel cheap without renouncing the pleasure of the restaurant?
If your plan is to eat out because you want to taste something typical, you should try street food. Vietnam, for example, has the largest amount of street food in the world, and you could buy a tasty noodle dish for the low, low, low price of 1 dollar.
Street foods are not the only solution to eat for cheap: ask locals about their favorite places to eat and what they consider typical. They will lead you to the right places for sure!
Embrace the culture: Eatwith
There is another alternative to the options I gave you before: book a dining experience on Eatwith. This website will allow you to get in touch with locals who offer to cook for you at a very affordable price. Lower than the amount you would pay by eating in a tourist restaurant, no doubt.
In addition to spending less, you will eat a home-cooked meal, and you will be able to fully embrace the culture of your destination.
Use restaurant booking apps
Restaurant booking apps are a high-tech solution to save on food. We often use TheFork, which is a cool app that allows you to search for restaurants around you. But that’s not all. You can read reviews and write reviews yourself, reserve a table, and best of all receive special discounts.
TheFork is available in many European countries, but also in Mexico, Australia, and many countries of South America. There are some alternatives for the other countries, you just go and check them out!
How to travel for cheap without renouncing tours
Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll need to tour the place. How to find cheap tours? Our favorite websites to find tours are GetYourGuide and Viator. We always find beautiful excursions and unforgettable activities at a reasonable price.
There are also other viable alternatives that we use and I’ll show you them in the next paragraphs.
If you have no idea how to get around, consider free tours by searching them on Google. In many cases, all you gotta do is to tip the organizer at the end of the tour, but only if you want to.
You will most likely find walking tours, but sometimes they also arrange bus tours. You can check free or cheap tours out on Freetour.
Visit independently without organized tours
Are you an adventurer? I’ll tell you how to travel cheap opting for the do-it-yourself method. There are many ways to find information and to visit places independently, so do it!
- Each touristy site usually has a visitor center. These are offices designed to give tourists information about the city. Chiara and I often go to the visitor centers of the places we visit to get information on the most beautiful things to see and also to get a map of the city.
- It’s good practice to do your own research before your arrival to get clear ideas of what you are going to see. On Amazon, there are a variety of guidebooks you can purchase to study in detail the attractions of each destination. They are usually very cheap and you can bring them with you to read them whenever you want on your smartphone.
- If you are an art lover (as we are), you should also look for free museums. We do our own research on free museums in the city and then pick those that inspire us the most.
How to save on local transportation
Use Uber rather than taxis
Upon arrival, you may find yourself in front of the airport looking for public transportation to take you to the accommodation. If you have alternative options, I advise you to avoid the taxi as this is usually the most expensive way to get around.
Rather, if this is available in the country, use the Uber app (for iOs or Android). This is a private car transportation service that connects drivers and passengers. Uber, together with Airbnb, is considered one of the most reputable sharing economy services.
Unfortunately, Uber is not available everywhere in the world (in Italy, for instance, it is not an option). If Uber is not available at your destination, consider taking a bus or, although more expensive, a taxi if it is the safer option (i.e it’s night time and you are alone with your luggage).
Other sharing services
There are other sharing services to take into consideration during your stay. In Italy, especially in recent years, there has been a boom in sharing services of electric scooters and bicycles. In addition to saving money, you will be helping the environment and avoid pollution.
You will have to download the required app and activate your account. Then you just have to look for the nearest scooter and start riding! These vehicles are very convenient because you can leave them wherever you want to when you are finished.
Walk rather than use vehicles
How to travel for cheap if you are against pollution but also old school? Electric vehicles are not necessary. Set off and go around the city on foot. The beauty of strolling is that you won’t miss anything. You will notice much more detail and will be able to fully enjoy your exploration.
Bring some comfortable sneakers with you, though. Cause at the end of the day, your feet could be wrecked!
How to travel on a budget: other tips
You should also keep some other things in mind during your trip. You’ll have to be mindful of the local currency, the internet connection and the travel insurance. Let’s talk about how to handle them.
Pay without extra fees
If the country you are traveling to has a different currency than your own, there are two options: either pay by card or use the local currency cash.
In case you choose credit card payments, bring a transaction free card so you don’t incur fees on every purchase you make.
If you choose to pay with the local currency, you’ll have to withdraw the cash from an ATM. It’s always better to use a credit card with no ATM transaction fees, so you don’t pay any commission on your withdrawal.
Never call abroad with your mobile phone network if you don’t want your phone bill to be extremely high.
How to travel cheaply without giving up calls? Look for wifi connection in public places or use the one included with your accommodation to make calls via Skype, Whatsapp or Facetime. Through these apps, you can talk for hours to anyone you want and you can do it for free!
Parking at the airport
Do you have to drive to the airport and leave the car there? You’ll have to find a cheap parking solution. Airport parking is usually more expensive than private parking located near the airport.
Looking4parking is a good comparison site that I use to find private parking lots. The search engine will help you find the most convenient car parking options according to your needs (schedule, departure airport, dates, etc.)
Don’t be afraid of the distances! Even if the parking is far from the airport, they provide shuttle bus services to and from the airport. So you’ll have everything within reach!
Insurance: save by preventing
The last piece of advice I’d like to give you is about travel insurance. My philosophy on travel is: save money in the long run by taking the necessary precautions.
Short sad story. A few years ago, my sister and her husband booked a trip to Santorini. They didn’t think about travel insurance and a week before departure, my sister’s husband got the measles and he was unable to go on the journey. It was very unfortunate.
In regards to the reservations, the result was catastrophic. It was impossible to cancel the reservations due to the absence of insurance, so they lost all the money (airplane tickets, accommodation, etc.)
I believe that prevention is better than dealing with the consequences, and if you agree with me, don’t skimp on travel insurance. You can check out Worldnomads, it’s a good and cheap travel insurance website.
How to travel for cheap: conclusions
Want to know how to travel cheap? You will most likely have to give up luxury and some comfort. If you happen to find cheap airline tickets for a beautiful European capital like Paris, don’t miss the chance. Put your desire for total comfort into the background and be satisfied with what you have. You probably won’t find a 5-star hotel room in the city center at a bargain price, but does it really matter? You will have the opportunity to have a fantastic travel experience at an affordable price. Sleep in a B&B, walk a little more, enjoy all the small pleasures that your trip has to offer.
Follow our travel tips and have a safe, cheap journey!
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